More oil found as anti-oil trial begins

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Norwegian state oil company Equinor seems to believe that the best defense is a good offense. Not only did it announce a large discovery of more oil this week, it also launched a major public relations campaign, just as climate and environmental activists were taking the state to court again in an effort to halt all new oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.

Rallies and demonstrations against more oil exploration have been going on in Oslo and elsewhere all week, as an appeals court trial over such efforts got underway. State oil company Equinor has responded with a PR campaign of its own, and announcement of a new oil discovery.  PHOTO: Greenpeace/Johanna Hanno

Equinor was running ads all over Oslo, not least on trams and buses, to explain why it continues to seek and produce more oil at a time when climate concern keeps rising. It even offered the public a chance to get its “piece of the cake” from the oil industry that’s pumped billions into Norway’s economy since the country’s offshore oil was first discovered in 1969. As part of the industry’s 50th anniversary celebrations, folks could stroll into a local bakery chain and get a free piece of cake.

On Wednesday Equinor also announced that it had drilled another well, conveniently close to the large Troll field and only 120 kilometers northwest of Bergen, believed to contain between 38- and 101 million barrels of oil equivalents. That’s not much in comparison to all the oil that recently started gushing out of the huge Johan Sverdrup oil field farther south, but it could cheer an industry and state petroleum officials who’d begun to worry that not much new oil had been discovered this year. Petoro, the state-owned firm in charge of Norway’s own oil holdings, reported earlier this week that 11 of 17 drilling operations in which it’s been involved so far this year came up dry. Of the 17 exploration wells, 10 were in the North Sea, three were in the Norwegian Sea and four were in the Barents.

Norway otherwise is credited with the most oil discoveries for any single country during the third-quarter. News bureau NTB reported that six of the 38 successful strikes are in Norway, according to figures from analysis firm GlobalData. Colombia was next, with five.

Representatives of four major climate and environmental organizations have been in court again this week, part of efforts to demand a halt to all new oil drilling projects in the Arctic. PHOTO: Natur og Ungdon/Thor Due

Norway’s ongoing and controversial oil exploration has only fueled the resolve of environmental organizations Greenpeace, Nature and Youth (Natur og Ungdom), Friends of the Earth Norway (Naturvernborbund) and the Grandparents Climate Campaign, all of which took the Norwegian government back to court this week. They’re appealing a lower court ruling against their effort to cancel all drilling for new oil in the Arctic, claiming it violates Norwegians’ constitutional rights to a diverse and healthy environment.

“It’s deeply worrisome to see the Norwegian government bury its head in the sand and fail to meet its climate commitments, while drilling for more of the oil that has caused the climate crisis,” stated Gaute Eiterjord, leader of Natur og Ungdom in Norway. He claims the government has an obligation to “safeguard a healthy environment,” and that its ongoing support for the oil industry defies its stated goals to cut carbon emissions.

Both Eiterjord and Frode Pleym of Greenpeace have been among those at the Court of Appeals in Oslo this week, with Pleym stressing that that the Norwegian government “can no longer ignore the dangerous impact its exported oil is having on the climate.” The groups are most concerned with halting oil activity in especially sensitive Arctic areas.

Counter-campaigns
While Equinor carries out its PR campaign, the environmental organizations have  also been active outside the courtroom as well. In addition to organizing torchlight rallies and demonstrations in front of Parliament, they’re hosting events along the waterfront at the Salt center in Oslo every evening. Sunday has been set aside as an “Environmental Day” at Salt, while a concert will be held on the evening of the 14th, after the appeals trial ends. Various events are also taking place in Norwegian cities all over the country, accompanied by outdoor art exhibits related to the climate.

Equinor has also responded by inviting environmental leaders like Silje Ask Lundberg of Naturvernforbund out to its Troll platform, to try to explain how they’re drilling for oil as safely as possible. “We want to inform folks about how we operate, so they can learn a bit about our operations,” Gunnar Egge, Equinor’s production chief on Troll, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) last weekend, just before the lawsuit started.

A special representative for the UN, meanwhile, has also called on Norway to stop exploring for more oil and gas reserves. If the environmental organizations lose their appeal to do the same, they intend to carry they battle on to the Supreme Court.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund